Montreal on a Very Hot Day

by Jean Belisle

Six in the morning.  We spent the last night at anchor hidden behind île aux Prunes on the St Lawrence River. While preparing the Lois for her trip to Montreal, a big Maersk Line boat approach us in the main channel. Our partner in Montreal, Simon Lebrun, is on board the Maersk Pallerno as a pilot for the run from Montreal to Trois Rivières. High near the pilot house he is looking at us through his binocular. Then the boat is blowing the big bass horn and we are answering with our smaller one. I am certain that everyone living in the area knows of our presence!

Simon Lebrun passing our anchorage early in the morning (photo: Tom Larsen)

We are now on our way to Montreal.. As we are closing to the former Vickers shipyard, our little helper (Groupe Ocean Service-boat-No 1 )is approaching. The Vickers was the only shipyard in Canada building submarines. During the first World War, they got the contract from the Imperial Russian government for eight subs. By the time the were delivered Russian became Soviet Union. So the first Soviet subs were Montrealers!

Service Boat No 1 towing us into Montreal (photo: Tom Larsen)

We are now towed. Like four years ago, we discovered the strength of the current in the St Lawrence River as we come through the Port of Montreal. As we are passing the Molson brewery, I am thinking of the PS Lady Sherbrooke, the fourth steamboat of the Molson line. From 1983 to 1993 we excavated her with my late friend André Lépine. Molson boats have a very special connection with the war of 1812. The second Molson steamboat the PS Swiftsure (PS stand for paddle steamer) was the first steamboat used in military operation. She was used as a troop transport during the war.

As we pass under the Jacques-Cartier bridge, we can see a large threee masted schooner turning with her sails up. It is the Empire Sandy, who is docked in the Jacques-Cartier basin, right down the dock from where we will be.

The Empire Sandy sailing in front of the Montreal skyline (photo: Tom Larsen)

As we safely come through the current to the Old Port, we cast off the towline from Service Boat No. 1 but they stayed not far in case we needed them again. Very nice on their part! We are now entering the Jacques-Cartier basin. The Empire Sandy is just ahead of us. Two large sailing ship entering at the same time in the basin is a very rare sight. Finally we are at our dock and suddenly it is hot, very hot, something around 90 F. And waiting for us on the dock, is Simon Lebrun. He left his big boat at Trois Rivières and rush back by car in time to welcome us in Montreal. As we have few things to do after setting our exhibit I am heading for Pointe à Callière Museum to visit the samurai show. It is excellent.

Next day we are in business. We have a VIP reception organized by Simon Lebrun. Many important visitors are on board: the American consul in Montreal, the director of the Old Port, several politicians and Louise Potier from Pointe à Callière. Louise was long time ago part of my crew of the PS Lady Sherbrooke project.

Friday, we are now open for public boarding. They need a lot of courage to get to the boat. It is so hot and we are at the end of the dock, far from the shore. It is starting slowly and we discovered that many people think that they have to pay for visiting us. So Pierre Valiquette, one of our volunteers, go on the dock to inform people passing by that it is totally free to visit the boat. It worked perfectly and suddenly we have many more visitors.  We ended up taking turns at the end of the dock, engaging visitors in discussions and urging them to visit the boat.

Jean Belisle encouraging people to visit the Lois McClure (photo: Tom Larsen)

High above us on the pier, the famous Cirque du Soleil is presenting their newest show Amaluna. Several member of the crew were unable to resist, and attended the last presentation of the show. A handful more of the crew attend a very special presentation of the famous movie with Marlon Brando, Mutiny on the Bounty, presented on a big screen in the park across the way. It is quite special. We are sitting outside looking at the film on a large screen when suddenly Simon bring the popcorn! No good movie is complete without the taste and the smell of fresh popcorn!

The bowsprit of the Empire Sandy overhanging the dock (photo: Tom Larsen)

As part of our stay in the Old Port, we learned about our dockmate, the Empire Sandy. Originally she was a ocean going tug built during the second world war to rescue crew of torpedoed boats. She didn’t have any rigging but she had a gun. She was converted into a sailing boat for tourist purpose. So naturally several members of the Lois crew were interested by her and were allowed to sail on her during their break from interpreting. Her bowsprit served as a kind of entrance arch for our visitors. It was really neat.

Time is running fast and it is now time to leave Montreal for Lachine on the west end of the island, just 10 miles from the Old Harbour.  While we are casting off the Cirque du Soleil is dismantling his chapiteau. They too are moving today. We are now leaving the basin and the Empire Sandy is blowing her horn to salute us. We are returning the salute, both to her, and in thanks for a great stop in the Old Port.

Special Thanks to:

Jean Belisle
A recently retired professor from the Art History Department at Concordia University, Jean has been involved with LCMM for many decades.  He joins us for his second year as crew aboard the Lois McClure.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

by Isaac Parker

As the Lois McClure wound it’s way down the Richelieu River in the morning sun it seemed like any other day. That morning we had departed from Saint Ours with the destination of Sorel in mind. Before this trip I hadn’t traveled into Canada much (just a few trips to the Biodome in Montreal when I was in elementary school and a summer vacation in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) so everything was totally new to me. I could tell things were changing when a sea plane landed 200 feet or so from us as we were underway and then proceeded to drive out of the water to a special seaplane airport. It was all very cool.

As we neared our destination we saw the speedboat traffic on the river increase drastically. These boats were quite the sight with all sorts of interesting detailed paint work on the sides.  What also surprised me was how big they were. I always thought of speedboats as kind of small – these were very large!

The propeller and draft marks (in feet) of a freighter on the docks of Sorel (photo: Tom Larsen)

With Sorel quickly approaching as we continued down the Richelieu, we began to pass these huge barges and tugs that made the Lois look tiny. We weren’t the biggest fish in the sea anymore. Just ahead of us the large grain towers of the local grain depot began to appear above the tree line and in the distance smoke was visible as it poured out of nearby factories.

Everyone hears how big container ships are, and we think we have an idea of what those numbers mean. However, until you have something to compare them too, those numbers don’t really register. As we rounded the last bend before Sorel, ahead of us lay a colossal container ship, towering above us. Having always been one of the tallest kids in my grade for the first time, I really felt small. With my jaw practically touching the floor, Art, who was next to me operating the tug said, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

A freighter loading with grain in Sorel (photo: Tom Larsen)
Rigged in Sorel (photo: Tom Larsen)

The boat was originally supposed to be open to the public in Sorel  but due to lack of water we would only be rigging the boat. After tying up on a commercial wall on the outskirts of the port we all took the rest of the afternoon to rest up in preparation for the hard work to come. The next morning the crane arrived around nine o’clock and it was already scorching hot and very humid. You could tell it was going to be a long day. This was my first full rigging day and I learned all about the topping lifts, the jig tackles, the throat and peak halyards and the lazy jacks. It was quite the learning experience.

Showers are always an important necessity on tour, and this day they were even more important then usual. Luckily, Energy Cardio, a local fitness center who had provided showers for the boat in 2008 generously allowed us to use them again. They were doubly appreciated this time around.

Now, as the tour continues, I’m excited to see what this new scale of waterway brings.  It’s quite the experience not being the biggest thing out there anymore.

Special Thanks to:

Isaac Parker
Serving for his third year aboard the Lois, Isaac is a rising Junior at Mount Abraham Union High School.  With a career in naval architecture in mind, Isaac joins us for two months this summer.

Exploring St Ours

by Jean Belisle

Here I am on the Lois McClure, four years after our fantastic trip to Quebec City. We are about to leave Saint-Denis on the Richelieu for Saint-Ours. It is 6 in the morning and I am taking pictures of the site of the future monument to Louis Joseph Papineau. Papineau was one of the leaders of the Patriots movement of the rebellion of 1837. I am interested partly because of Papineau but also because I know the sculptor of the new monument, Jules Lasalle. Our schedule on this tour also has us stopping at Montebello, where we will be able to see the seigneury of Papineau himself.  I’m excited for that. (The seigneurial system was a semi-feudal style land distribution system used in New France.)

We are on our way by 9. The trip is very short. Saint-Ours is the next village down the river and we don’t even make it to the village proper. The lock is one mile before it.

The LOIS and CHURCHILL at St Ours Lock (photo: Kerry Batdorf)

The lock is big, much bigger than the locks on the Chambly Canal. It was part of a major plan to make the whole Richelieu system to the same standards of the New York State Canal System. We dock on port side after passing through the lock. We are received by peoples from the Friends of St.Ours Canal with a gift of local products including natural maple candies. Big success! The site of the lock is interesting. A small hamlet was created at the site for the peoples working at the seigneurial mill (unfortunately it burned in 1939) That mill, built in 1845, was the starting point of a little proto-industrial hub. The second element was the building of the first lock and the dam in 1849. The lock site of today was built between 1930 and 1933.

The fish ladder at St Ours (photo: Kerry Batdorf)

The next day is a day off for everyone, so I decided to walk to the village. I have been there long time ago as a guest of the seignor of Saint Ours. I was doing a study of his seigneurial manor. It is the only seignor still living on his seigneury in Quebec. But naturally, today he doesn’t enforce his “cens and rente”! There is show of local artists in the church. Some of the works are pretty good. Then I crossed the river on the ferry Helène.  A little visit to the local historical society of Saint-Marc and I am on my way back to the boat. On the dam I decided to take a second look at the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder. Last time I had no luck, no fish. But this time I am lucky. Suddenly on the right of the window a fish, not big just one foot. It looked at me probably as surprise as I am and then disappeared at the bottom. In all less than 2 seconds! Everybody from the crew have tried to see a fish but I am the only lucky one. Sadly it went so fast that I was unable to identify it!

Saturday July 7th, we are finally open. We were supposed to have been open on the 4th of July (American national holiday) but due to the really low water level at Sainte-Anne de Sorel our schedule had to be modified. So we are here on a beautiful Saturday with the music of the overture 1812 of Tchaichovsky with of course, the cannons. It is not the right 1812 but it is a nice touch to our thematic trip.

Jean Belisle
A recently retired professor from the Art History Department at Concordia University, Jean has been involved with LCMM for many decades.  He joins us for his second year as crew aboard the Lois McClure.

Saint Denis; The Richelieu River: Valley of Memories*

by Art Cohn

It sometimes happens that through flood, hurricane or in this year’s case, low water, we have to adapt our travel schedule. We had planned to spend several days in St. Anne-de-Sorel as a part of their annual Gibelotte Festival. Unfortunately, word reached us while enroute that the low water conditions had reduced the depth at our proposed dock from eight feet to less than two. We sent a scouting party to examine the conditions and found that they were as reported and a search revealed that no alternative dock was available in the busy harbor. As we contemplated a “Plan b”, an invitation from Natalie, a representative of La Monteregie, La Route du Richelieu, came to us requesting our presence at a special event scheduled for Saint Denis on July 4th. A quick check of the now changing schedule suggested that by moving a few dates up and down it would be possible to attend.

One of the oldest churches in Canada, located in St Denis (photo: Tom Larsen)

Saint Denis, as the new Richelieu River heritage initiative being announced indicated, was one of the central communities involved with the Patriots movement of 1837-38. A new heritage guide, Richelieu River: Valley of Memories, published by Parcs Canada, details the history of this social movement, inspired in part, by our own American Revolution. The Patriots was an effort by Canadians of all backgrounds to press the British government for more representation in the government of their affairs. The more I learned about this important chapter of Canadian history the more it just seemed right that we would be participating in the event on July 4th.

Saint Denis had been one of the Richelieu River’s early commercial centers with a busy harbor and many ceramic manufactories. Today, a cable ferry serves the harbor and the restored dock is accessed through a narrow channel. Captain Roger’s excellent knack of finding the unmarked channel brought us to Saint Denis’s dock in plenty of time to join the celebration taking place in the park next to the Patriots Museum. Here, we met officials from up and down the Richelieu Valley, many of whom we have established close relationships with from our present travels and our visit in 2008. The Lois McClure and her crew were recognized from the podium and the attendees were invited to board the boat during our afternoon public hours. I am pleased to report that most of the assembled mayors and tourism representatives took advantage of our presence to do just that.

Monument to the Patriots (photo: Art Cohn)

Today, Saint Denis, the site of an important Patriots battle and the Patriots Museum is considered by many the center of the Patriot movement. It was in Saint Denis that on November 23, 1837 that the Patriots led by Dr. Wolfred Nelson achieved victory in a battle against British regulars. The armed resistance was eventually suppressed and many of the Patriot leaders took refuge just across the border in northern Vermont and New York. The new Heritage Guide* and trail along the Richelieu River highlights the places and monuments that recognize this important chapter in Canadian history. Anyone looking to learn more about this important chapter of history is well served to begin their study with a visit to Saint Denis sur Richelieu.

*The Richelieu River: Valley of Memories, is a new Heritage Guide just published by Parcs Canada. Cat. No. R64-423/2012E

Special Thanks to:

Art Cohn
Captain, C.L. Churchill

Captain’s Log, Part 2

by Roger Taylor

Kathleen and I rejoined the Lois McClure on June 18th at St. Albans just in time to get underway for Rouses Point. It was blowing a strong breeze out of the South, and, by the time we were ready to cast off at about 11:00, it had backed just enough toward the East to let us ease the vessel out from behind the T of the St. Albans dock on just a long bow line without fouling the small-boat floats. Then we let the bow line go, swung the schooner’s bow out from the lee of the dock into the breeze with the Oocher, and asked the tug, C. L. Churchill, made up on the starboard hip, to start pushing her to windward.

The new blue tow hawser (photo: Tom Larsen)

We sought and found a lee under the eastern shore of St. Albans Bay, calm water where we could shift the tug to towing ahead on a hawser. And what a hawser! Bob Dollar, a long time volunteer with the huge rope expertise (and who works for R&W Rope), had helped us get a brand new one, since eight years of towing seemed to be enough for the original. Boatswain Len Ruth belayed the bitter end of the new line to one of the forward bitts, and Captain Art Cohn eased the Churchill slowly ahead to shift 200 feet of spandy, light blue (!) towline off his stern into the water. Seeing that heavy, new line connecting us to our source of power represents security.

We just did make the 1:30 opening of the Grand Isle Bridge, and the helpful bridge mistress agreed to keep the span open for a little longer than usual to make sure our masts got through all right. By 4:30, we were off the Rouses Point breakwater. We ducked in behind it to shift the tug onto the port hip for towing into Gaines Marina.

It turned out that we needed help getting into the marina. The wind was still strong out of the South, and the passage in to our berth inside the docks was narrow, bending, and lined with large, expensive, fiberglass yachts. When we tried it on our own, the wind took charge of the schooner’s high, shallow bow, despite the best efforts of the Churchill and Oocher. We managed to back clear, leaving fiberglass unscathed. Joe Treadwell, the marina’s owner and manager, with his upbringing as a Maine Coast lobster fisherman, was quick to see our dilemma and came to the rescue with his lobster boat, the Prince of Peace II. He towed us in just as nice as you please.

Next day, we hosted over a hundred smiling visitors, the smiles being wrought by this remarkable vessel and her remarkable crew. And a good many of these visitors hosted the crew that evening at a fine dinner that they cooked and served. We always say, “Welcome aboard!” when a visitor steps from our gangway to the deck; the citizens of Rouses Point certainly made us feel most welcome in return.

De-rigging at Gaines Marina
Taking the mast down at the dock of Gaines Marina (photo: Tom Larsen)

On June 20th, we struck the rig. We were heading North to go through the Chambly Canal, which allows a maximum height of 29 feet; our mainmast stands 65 feet above the water. With my senior-citizen status, I decided it was time to remove myself from the six-man hard-hat crew and “supervise” from outside the circle of possible falling objects. As good luck would have it, the previous evening I had been reading one of Robert Benchley’s humorous yarns, which began with one of my favorite Benchley lines, simple words that proved perfect for my announcement of my new status to the other hard-hat wearers: “There were six of us, five counting the Captain.” Anyway, the work went smoothly with former First Mate, turned Co-Director, Erick Tichonuk trading his Museum desk for a hard hat for the day to run things, and with Joe and his crew bringing into play at least three of their major “toys”: boom truck, mini excavator, and a high-reaching heavy duty fork lift.

A boy and his box
Hiltion Dier with the new ice box (photo: Kerry Batdorf)

That same day, who should arrive on board but faithful volunteer Hilton Dier, with, in the back of his pick-up, a new refrigerator of his design and build to add to our arsenal of shipboard conveniences. It is an icebox that, once its compressor is delivered and installed, will also run on 12 volts. Of course there were no such conveniences in 1862, so Hilton built the thing to look like a box of cargo.

On the 21st, Joe Treadwell put the Prince of Peace II back to work and towed us safely out past his customers’ craft, stern-first. Heading North, we crossed the border into Canada at 10:30 and soon thereafter anchored off the Canadian Customs Station. In three hours, with the help of the customs officers on duty, every detail of an entering museum vessel with a small ship’s store on board had been ironed out, and we were free to visit our northern neighbors.

Our first stop was at Ile-aux-Noix. We went down the Richelieu River and on past the island itself, guarded by Fort Lennox, choosing the larger, northern channel in to the town behind it. We shared the town dock with the ferry that carries passengers over to visit the Fort. After we had tied up and tidied away everything not reminiscent of 1862, we opened the boat to local dignitaries and to the press. We were delighted to see their illustrated stories in the local papers starting the next day.

Jean Belisle

It was at Ile-aux-Noix where Jean Belisle joined the crew. Jean is a renowned professor of history from Montreal, recently retired. A good friend of Art Cohn’s, with whom he shares many interests in history, Jean has agreed to volunteer in our crew for the entire time we are in Canada. He has quickly proved his great value, both in terms of interpreting the Lois McClure in unfractured French and in being our liaison with French-speaking officials in our ports-of-call.

The cake brought to us by Denis. No one could bring themselves to cut into the fantastic image on it! (photo: Tom Larsen)

After sharing our history with more than 400 visitors at Ile-aux-Noix, we got underway for St. Jean-sur-Richelieu on June 25th. At St. Jean, we found that Denis Couture, dive shop entrepreneur and history buff, couldn’t do enough for us. He not only help arrange for rooms and breakfast for the crew at the Royal Military College nearby, but also drove us anywhere we needed to go for ship’s errands and treated us to elegant hors d’oeuvres and dessert at supper one evening on board. His friendship, which began with our trip to St. Jean in 2008, is special to us.

On the 28th, we started through the Chambly Canal, which circumvents the twelve miles of rapids in the Richelieu River below St. Jean. Unlike the Champlain and Erie Canals, the Chambly was never enlarged, so the Lois McClure takes up all the space in each of its nine locks. Well, not quite all the space; we can just squeeze the Oocher in with the schooner. But the Churchill has to lock through separately. She tows the McClure up to a lock; we drop her towline and put two bow lines over. Then, while the tug is locking down, we hold the schooner in place just outside the lock with these bow lines and the Oocher, pulling gently on the stern, guided by Kerry Batdorf, who puts down his hammer and saw as Ship’s Carpenter to run the Oocher’s 50-h.p. Honda outboard. Gently, that is, unless there is a strong crosswind, when he may have to go up to 50% of available power to hold the schooner’s stern up to windward.

Isaac sending the tow hawser back to the Lois, leaving a lock on the Chambly Canal (photo: Tom Larsen)

The Chambly has not only small locks, but also narrow lift bridges. Their width does not allow us to tow with the tug on the schooner’s hip for best maneuverability; we tow ahead with a short hawser; the schooner follows the tug through the bridges. For brakes in case a bridge cannot open when we arrive, we have the Oocher towing on the schooner’s stern, ready to back her down. And, for suspenders to go with this belt, we have a stern anchor ready to let go.

The 28th would not only begin our transit of the Chambly Canal, but also would mark one of the most interesting events of the 2012 trip: the schooner would be towed by animals for just the third time. As our transit of the Chambly began, the Churchill pulled the schooner through the first two opened bridges and up to a floating dock just above the canal’s first lock, Lock 9, where we tied up for 45 minutes to allow the press to board the schooner, take pictures and interview the crew. For this day’s trip, we were delighted to have on board Darcy and Bruce Hale. Darcy is chairwoman of the Museum’s Board of Directors and has always had a great interest in the Lois McClure. We were also delighted that Co-Director Tichonuk could be back on board, wearing his old First Mate’s hat to strengthen our crew.

Before locking the two vessels down through Lock 9, we rigged a 300-foot towline from the far end of the lock to the towpath, ahead on the canal’s right bank. Yves Boulais had trucked Jim and Nick, mighty Percheron horses, from their stable at Mont St. Gregoire, and they seemed eager to take the schooner’s towline. As we pulled the McClure out of the lock, we picked up the long line and made it fast on the starboard side, with a spring line round it to the bow to control its angle of pull. Then we gave the word to Jean Belisle, on a radio next to Monsieur Boulais, and it was “Allez!” For the next few minutes, we experienced— and the crowd of a thousand fans watched— the very best way there is to move a canal boat. Smooth, powerful acceleration, and absolute silence. That sense of perfection makes us realize that while it is fine to tow the Lois McClure with the Churchill or to sail her, she was really developed as a boat type to be pulled slowly and quietly by animals. After the best part of a kilometer, the canal narrowed, and we traded the long line to the Percherons for a short one to our waiting tug.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPxiJF67iZ4&w=560&h=315]

We towed on down the canal through the narrow bridge openings and just did manage to hold our three vessels off the lee bank in a fresh crosswind as we waited for Bridge 4 to open. By mid-afternoon, we were ready to call a halt and tied up just above Lock 8, near Chambly.

That crosswind continued to challenge the crew next day, as we went through the next five locks on the Chambly canal. The breeze kept us busy holding the schooner in position while the tug locked through and then hauling the schooner out of the lock with the tug, starting without steerage way. Our fenders, particularly the “rovers” manipulated by Barb Batdorf and Kathleen Carney, saved some paint that day. The final challenge was to tow the schooner up to a mooring at the canal wall at Chambly with the fresh breeze trying to blow her off it. Once we got bow lines from tug and schooner safely secured to bollards, it was just a matter of shoving with the Oocher, getting more lines over, and hauling her in alongside.

The weekend of June 30th and July 1st was the celebration of Canada Day. We opened our gangway to the holiday crowds and explained not only how canal boats contributed to the economy in 1862, but also how the War of 1812 affected citizens on both sides of the border along the waterways. More than 1,100 visitors listened and contributed to the dialogue—and were carried back in time by the experience of treading the deck of a historic canal boat.

When we took the Lois McClure down the Richelieu River in 2008, the seminal experience was surviving the “Bridge of Death.” The moniker for this railway bridge across the river comes from a long-ago, horrendous accident involving an inexperienced crew running a train filled with immigrants across the bridge when the span was open for a string of canal boats. It was merely the unexpected narrowness of the span for boats that nearly did us in four years ago. Knowing what to expect when we went down through the current-ridden slot on July 2nd, we had no difficulty. The Churchill towed ahead, rather than on the hip, sacrificing maneuverability for reduced beam. We lengthened the towline to gain back some independent maneuverability for the schooner, so she could be steered through without her bow being pulled sideways by the hawser as the tug herself maneuvered through. We sent the Oocher ahead to report on the condition of the current and, hopefully, to stop traffic that might be approaching the bridge at the same time as the tug and schooner. I even broadcast a “Securitay! Securitay!” announcement, warning anyone who might be listening on Channel 16 that we were coming and requesting no traffic through the bridge until we had passed. Having taken those precautions, we naturally had the place all to ourselves. It still required some bold steering on both tug and schooner to keep from letting the current set the vessels across into the jagged steel just below the surface that is one of the nastier features of the “Bridge of Death”.

Having survived again, we let the schooner drift downstream with the current while we put the tug back on the hip to land the schooner on the public dock at Beloeil. That afternoon, we welcomed the town’s mayor and her entourage on board and were blessed by a wonderful Native American ceremony. We are blessed indeed to be able to experience a variety of customs as we travel these North American waterways. And blessed again to receive 350 visitors in Beloeil.

Cora as a teenager, 1918

It was in Beloeil that we received sad news. One of our greatest sources of first-hand information about life on a canal boat has been the detailed memories of Cora Archambault. Cora, born in 1904, spent her childhood living on board a canal boat with her family, and she has gladly shared her recollections of what was for her a happy and fascinating time. Art Cohn listened to her stories and became her good friend. When he learned of her passing, he gave a heartfelt eulogy to the crew of the Lois McClure. We always used to slow and sound the Churchill’s whistle as we towed past Cora’s house at Fiddler’s Elbow, near Whitehall, and we always will.

Roger Taylor
Captain

Beloeil

by Isaac Parker

Sunset behind the church spire in Beloeil (photo: Tom Larsen)

With the start of a new month, the Lois McClure entered Beloeil, a town who’s name translates to beautiful eye. Living up to its name, the town was truly scenic, located directly across the Richelieu River from Mont St. Helaire, the only mountain for miles. This seeming unnatural land formation dominates the sky to the east, towering over the surrounding flatlands.

After traveling through the infamous “Bridge of Death”, nicknamed due to a horrific train accident involving an open bridge, rail cars full of immigrants, and a tow of canal boats in the early 1900s, without incident and docking at the public dock of Beloeil, the crew of the Lois McClure went about the usual docking procedure except this time we had to rig a special contraption because the concrete dock was almost even with the bulwarks of the Lois. Then came all of the panels, accompanied by the ever present debate of where they should be positioned and which order would work best.

One of our local contacts, the Beloeil Tourist Information Center , generously allowed the crew to use the rental bikes for free. So shortly after the boat closed, Tom and I decided to use two of the bikes to explore the town. Unfortunately for our sense of speed, the bikes the tires were slightly flat. As we didn’t want to end up damaging them, we decided to go find some air. After walking for what felt like forever with the two bikes, we located a gas station with an air compressor. However, the use of said compressor cost money and neither of us had thought to bring any kind of cash with us. There was another bicyclist there in the same situation as us – flat tire, no cash. Luckily for us he had called a friend to bring him a some change so that he could pump his tires and he quickly offered us the extra time on the compressor. It’s kindness like this that makes visiting all the communities we see such a joy. With tires brimming with air, Tom and I pedaled back to the boat arriving just in time for dinner.

We were open for one and a half days. The first half day brought out what seemed like the whole town with visitors lined up waiting to board before we opened. It was wonderful. Unfortunately the next day the weather stemmed the flow for a little while, but in the afternoon the visitors kept on coming.

Early in the morning on the second day in Beloeil, a group of us prepared all of our shower stuff, because the local Fire Department had offered up their showers for the crew to use. In addition to the showers being available they also said they would taxi us to and from the fire station. Everyone was just expecting a van or maybe a SUV, but oh no, they were pulling out all the stops. Up pulled a full blown ladder truck! We were shocked. Personally, I had never been in a fire truck, so it was super awesome and everyone else seemed just as amazed. Also, being fireman they knew all about water, so it was no surprised that the showers were top of the line.

Ride to the showers in a ladder truck (photo: Kerry Batdorf)

I am always amazed at the kindness and adventure that happens around the Lois McClure. It is hard to imagine that there are new things for us to see out there because we have seen so much. However every town is still able to provide that wonderful little treasure that we will always remember and Beloeil is no exception.

Special Thanks to:

Isaac Parker
Serving for his third year aboard the Lois, Isaac is a rising Junior at Mount Abraham Union High School.  With a career in naval architecture in mind, Isaac joins us for two months this summer.